America is under attack. A new-wave Heroin epidemic is hitting the country, killing slowly.
It is called Fentanyl.
This new drug has taken hold in North America.
- The dangers are so stark that while many police officers and first responders in North America already carry the overdose antidote Naloxone to save dying opioid users, they now take a new precaution: carrying the antidote in the form of nose spray to use on themselves.
- Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is 50-100 times more powerful than Heroin, and inhaling or even touching a small amount can be fatal. “It’s spreading across the country, leaving a trail of misery and death,” says Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police (RMCP), adding, “first responders and the public need to know that even being near it can make you sick, or worse.”
- Police in Vancouver will face more than 800 fatal overdoses from the substance this year, with the RCMP in August awarding a nearly $2m contract to Adapt Pharma Canada – the makers of the antidote, referred to as Narcan.
Fentanyl found in drugs @ Vancouver supervised injection site. A crisis of gr8 proportions 😞 https://t.co/MKBZTdCNj8
— Face the Fentanyl (@facethefentanyl) 1. September 2016
- In the United States this summer, 23 police departments in Delaware have started issuing Narcan to officers in order to protect themselves and others from overdose deaths.
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an abnormal increase in law enforcement testing positive for fentanyl since 2013, following drug seizures, particularly in New Hampshire, Ohio and Massachusetts. The CDC observed a 426% increase in cases where fentanyl or other synthetic opioids were seized from 2013 to 2014.
The numbers are shocking
The last week in August in the Cincinnati area alone, 174 people overdosed on opioids in just 6 days. Prior to that, 26 people overdosed in a four-hour time span in Huntington, West Virginia. Even for a country that has waged war against drugs and is used to its prevalence, these numbers are shocking.
In 2003, nine out of every 100,000 people in the US died from a heroin overdose. In 2014 that has risen to 15 already, and this number is continuing to spike, according to the CDC. The CDC’s Robert Anderson notes, “You can compare this to the sudden increase of the HIV epidemic in the late 80s and early 90s.” In Ohio last year, 1424 people died from an overdose – a whopping 1,700% increase compared to 2003.
No class of society is immune to this epidemic
In the state of New Hampshire, drug commissioner Timothy Rourke explains that heroin deaths have exploded in recent years, with 326 dying in 2014, and many more saved from the overdose. The victims fall under no class divides, with more and more women becoming dependent, a proportion that has doubled in recent years according to nationwide statistics.
Opioids are no longer just a problem for large cities like Los Angeles and New York. The spread has permeated rural and affluent areas across the United States.
Widespread and potent
Basic economics catalyzes the spread of fentanyl.
Unlike heroin, which requires the careful cultivation of poppy seeds, often overseas, synthetic opioids can be manufactured domestically in the United States on an industrial scale by ‘Breaking Bad’-style enthusiasts with basic chemical knowledge.
According to Russ Baer, a DEA spokesman, the cost of producing fentanyl is the same as heroin – running at about $3,000 to $4,000 per kilo, but the extreme potency of fentanyl means it can be cut and split into much larger quantities, making its reach far superior in the eyes of drug dealers.
Mexican cartels have put production in overdrive, either purchasing the finished product from China, or by buying the required precursor chemicals from the Chinese and making it in Mexico. It is now being sold in pill form, often disguised as oxycodone. “The drug dealers don’t know what they are selling, the consumers don’t know what they are buying,” says Baer.